OKLAHOMA CITY – Practical issues and challenges flowing from an effort to reach a lofty goal among construction industry advocates – sparking awareness, interest and career thinking for young people – were the focus of an energetic meeting held July 16. In August attendees continued to prepare for an October conference, and to “vision” for a 2022 “Construction Camp.”

Many issues were discussed at the July gathering, but much of the focus was on the one-day Construction Career event for Oklahoma City area high school students scheduled for Tuesday October 26: “Build My Future OKC.”

Spark plugs and idea generators for the effort include Marla Esser Cloos (Green Home Coach) and Christy Reyes-Howell. They have a diverse network of supporters including Will Blake (Vesta Foundation Solutions), Jack Werner (A to Z Home Inspections), Kellie Griggs (Guthrie Jobs Corps), and Whitney Tatum (Studio Tatum).

Each of these individuals dug into construction industry issues – including the October event – at the home of Jack Werner and Suzanne Broadbent in Putnam Heights in mid-July.

Also, at the July gathering were Chad Detwiler (Recovering Oklahomans After Disaster – ROAD), Jackie Listen (of JD Listen), Mike Means and Jorie Helms (Oklahoma Homebuilders Association), and Alfonso Nieves (Fox Blocks).

Partners for the “Build My Future” event also include the Oklahoma City Public Schools.

Susan “DJ” Watts-Broker says has praised the opportunities and possibilities of the event: “As Business Industry Career Development Coordinator for the Oklahoma City Public Schools, I’m excited to have our students gain hands-on career knowledge at Build My Future OKC. It’s the perfect partnership between the OKC Public schools and your companies to start our students down the path toward a great career in the construction industry or skilled trades.”

Cloos forwarded a succinct description of the website (https://buildmyfutureokc.com/  )  for the event: It “features Tool Talk video interviews with skilled trades people and builders for students to experience. Complimentary access to a curated collection of dozens of mini courses is offered via the Build My Future OKC program. Mini courses in many trades and basic construction range from Measurements and Basic Tools to Introduction to Heating/Cooling. Learn about National Association of Home Builders Student Chapters and how to start a chapter for students interested in building.”

Also from the web portal: “Download a fun Building Activity book to share with younger siblings, friends, or yourself. Many opportunities are offered to connect with resources for training, both online and in-person; for volunteer building experiences; for job opportunities and more.”

Cloos, is chair for Build My Future and for PWB (Professional Women in Building).

She told The City Sentinel, “Build My Future OKC provides students a chance to experience the building industry and all the opportunity and promise it holds. Build My Future OKC is much more than just an event, it is our gift to our community, our contribution to connect students with training and opportunities for high-paying, rewarding jobs and careers.”

Cloos is an author and podcaster, and is deemed a “healthier home advocate” in addition to her professional designation as a Green Home Coach. She others involved in PWB of Central Oklahoma garnered a recognition – as one of only three councils nationwide to win a “Best Council” award for its work on Build My Future and other local projects.

The award came from The National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) Professional Women in Building (PWB) Council. Announcement of the award came at NAHB PWB Board of Trustees meeting.

The dialogue on July 16 provided a smorgasbord of substantive conversation and deft planning, which The City Sentinel’s reporter witnessed.

In addition to the “Build My Future” event, participants looked ahead to the envisioned “Construction Camp” for middle school and high school-aged students in 2022.

The classic baseball film “Field of Dreams” included the memorable line, “If you build it, they will come.” Oklahoma’s construction trade advocates are past the “if” stage, bridging into the next practical step: When they build it …

Note: Pat McGuigan covers politics, community development, education, business, arts and entertainment and other issues for The City Sentinel newspaper.


Oklahoma City-area business leaders focused on constructing a better future met recently. From left: Christy Reyes-Howell, Will Blake, Marla Esser Cloos, Jack Werner (standing, who hosted the meeting in his Putnam Heights home), Kellie Griggs, and Whitney Tatum. Among other topics, the meeting focused on this fall’s “Build My Future OKC” conference to encourage young women to become involved in the construction business, and next year’s envisioned “Construction Camp” for middle- and high-school students. Photograph by Patrick B. McGuigan, The City Sentinel


Working at the July “construction camp” planning meeting were, from left, Jackie Listen, Jorie Helms of the Oklahoma Homebuilders Association, Alfonso Nieves of Fox Blocks TrueGrid, Christy Reyes-Howell, Will Blake of Vesta Foundation Solutions, Jack Werner, A to Z Inspections (and a regular columnist for The City Sentinel) and Marla Esser Cloos of Green Homes Coach. Not pictured: Mike Means of the Home Builders, and Chad Detwiler of “Making Homes Home Again.” Photograph by Patrick B. McGuigan, The City Sentinel

Willis Washington, founder of The Legacy Impact Foundation Team (LIFT), participated in a recent meeting where Oklahoma City business community leaders discussed a range of cooperative ventures, including this fall’s “Build My Future OKC” event (for young women interested in the construction business) and next year’s envisioned “Construction Camp.” The accidental “photo bomb” (behind Washington) came from Mike Means of the Oklahoma Home Builders Association. Among other things, Washington is an occasional contributing writer for The City Sentinel newspaper. Photo by Patrick B. McGuigan